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Friday, September 04, 2015

Advocacy: Kaw Point Connector

So a bunch of us cyclists showed up to the Unified Government's equivalent of a city council meeting (KCK and Wyandotte County merged their governments awhile back, become a city-county, which means a city council and a county commission had to become the same thing. Anyway, the issue in question was a little bike/ped bridge that would connect the bridge I got married on to Kaw Point, which is barely more than a football field away from that bridge.

I was a little disappointed, after I rode my ass out to Overland Park City Hall last April to support a comprehensive bike plan. It was standing room only and the good guys won. Well, I guess they won last night in the Dotte, too, but I don't think nearly as many Overland Park people came to our meeting as vice versa. Despite how the news coverage tried to make it out like this was Mayor Holland's pet project and the cyclists there, who might not even be local, were just his unwitting stooges.

I emailed the TV-5 reporter about his story on the event. The headline was that this bike infrastructure came with a big price tag, and the story featured a bike commuter who came off like a hobo, who carries his bike up some stairs and over train tracks now to avoid the semis on the bridge into Fairfax. Including the guy saying something about how they could do something better with that kind of money.

That kind of money? This bridge is going to cost less than $3 million, and KCK has to foot less than $1 million of that, a little over $750,000. The Feds are paying the rest. If you want to have a rumble about whether the Federal government should pay for bike infrastructure, I'm game. I'm a libertarian, I think it's completely mustarded to have Uncle Sam in the bike trail biz. But I lost that fight, the money is being spent. If not in KCK, then somewhere, so fuck Des Moines or Minneapolis, build me a bridge here. There'll be some jobs created during the construction and the bridge will be a tiny down payment on Kansas City not being a blighted and retrograde backwater losing out to places like Des Moines and Minneapolis who figured out the value of bike infrastructure a long time ago.

The bias I felt like the story carried is that bike infrastructure is stupid, so any amount of money is excessive. Bike infrastructure is, of course, as cheap as infrastructure gets, but $2.7 million is real money, right? Ever price stop lights? More than that, though, I felt they missed the real story.

There was a presentation ready to go, four items on the agenda, the news folks were there (even if I feel they missed the point), there were a couple dozen bike advocates ready to testify, and barely after the minutes of the last meeting were approved, the opposition called for a vote without discussion or presentations. They knew they didn't have the votes to defeat this (it had been knocked down a couple years ago, but things had changed), I think they just knew they were beat and thought why have a public record of just how fucking wrong they were about the whole deal? Some petty politics and personal vendettas went into the vote being as close as it was, but they knew it was 5-4 before that motion was offered up.

I haven't been to as many city hall meetings, I'm sure, as the TV-5 reporter has, but I've been to a few, and I've never seen a capitulation like this. The Overland Park meeting lasted over three hours largely just on public comment and the rigorous on-the-record protest of the one councilman who actually voted against the bike plan.

To his credit, Josh Marshall (the reporter) responded to my email, though I don't think he got what I was criticizing him for. He said he wasn't biased or he wouldn't have, "included general population saying 'there's other things you can do with that kind of money.'" Well, actually that guy's semi-articulate quote actually highlighted the bias of the story, by basically saying that even bike commuters aren't for this, it's Mayor Holland's pet project. In Lenexa, they just finished a $600 million highway expansion at I-35 and I-435, adding a ridiculous number of lanes and less than five years after that they're already all tore up and building more lanes and additional flyovers to relieve congestion that can't be relieved by additional lanes. Yet I don't recall seeing these projects reported on as obvious pork, as vast public boondoggles though they surely are. You can add lanes, maybe three each direction, after that more lanes solves congestion the way bigger pants solves obesity. At some point you have to convince a few people to get out of their cars and onto a bus or a bike...Oh, and then you'll want bike infrastructure. Which, by the way, creates jobs the same way those useless extra lanes on I-35 does.

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